A Modern Herbal by 7.4 Limited
For thousands of years, humans have used plants for medicinal purposes, and we still source drugs from plants today, including breakthrough treatments for cancer, malaria, neurodegenerative diseases and pain. As plants are immobile, they rely on specialized chemicals to protect them from stresses, such as being fed upon, changing seasons and UV radiation, and to communicate with other plants or with animals (e.g. for pollination). Plants produce more than 200 000 such compounds, and many have proved useful in medicine, either as the natural product or with slight alterations. Here we show prescription drugs that are approved by the European Medicines Agency or the US Food and Drugs Administration, and the plants from which they are derived arranged by relatedness. It illustrates that many of these compounds are limited to specific taxonomic groups (or even single species). For example, galantamine, used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, is found exclusively in snowdrops and other closely related species. Over 95% of the world’s biodiversity has yet to be explored for medicines, so there is still great unrealised potential to harness nature to cure disease.